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The History of Northeastern Seminary

Where society builds up walls against us spreading the good news of the gospel, BT Roberts tears those walls down.

Dr. Doug Cullum

With Benjamin Titus Roberts

The Founding of Roberts Wesleyan University & Northeastern Seminary

Roberts Wesleyan University, originally Chili Seminary, was founded by Benjamin Titus Roberts in 1866. Roberts was an evangelical Methodist minister and the first general superintendent of the Free Methodist Church. He and the other founders of the Church affirmed the view of Christian teaching, personal piety, and social action taught by John Wesley.

The Church's official teaching in its Articles of Religion clearly shows its roots in classical Christianity. Its heritage can be traced through the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, the Augsburg Confession of the Protestant Reformation, and the great historic creeds of the early church, such as the Apostles' Creed, back to the Scriptures, and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Our Core Values

What Northeastern Seminary Believes


To provide a theological education that is built upon the foundation of a deep, sustained engagement with biblical and historic Christianity


To equip students to practice ministry that is wisely and faithfully responsive to the constantly changing contexts of our culture and world

Respect-filled Community

To affirm and learn from each person in our richly-diverse community of faith, regardless of such distinctives as denominational affiliation, ethnicity, gender, or age


To value the life of the mind, and so offer a carefully-designed, intentionally-integrated academic program that cultivates an aptitude for faithful theological reflection about the most central questions of life and ministry

Spiritual Formation

To affirm that the indispensable foundation for Christian ministry is a vital relationship with God through Christ, and so seek to provide a nurturing community in which genuine Christian faith can deepen and thrive

Service to the Church & the World

To believe that a theological seminary does not exist for its own sake, but exists rather to serve and resource the church of Jesus Christ

Our Heritage

The theological perspective Northeastern Seminary seeks to emulate can be traced to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Wesley provides an exceptional model of the theological method. He was immersed in the Holy Scriptures, acknowledged them as the supreme authority, and profusely used them in his writings with striking aptness. Likewise, Wesley's viewpoint was deeply rooted in classical Christianity. He loved the insights of the early Christian writers.

Further, Wesley drew widely from the rich resources of the entire Christian family, such as the late medieval saints and the Protestant reformers. Finally, we note Wesley's pastoral passion: his vision sought embodiment in a holistic Christian life that included personal piety and social action as well as sound doctrine.

Acknowledgment of Doctrine

We acknowledge the centrality and authority of the Holy Scriptures. These works convey the revelation of God in an utterly unique way. Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, though ancient, speak an enduring and timely message. We aspire to know the text of the Bible-both in its breadth and depth and to discover the meaning and application of its message to our own day. We believe our theological discourse, our worship-both corporate and private, our professional work, and our personal conduct are to be shaped by God's Word.

We also embrace those understandings of the Scriptures that have always been treasured by the Church. The central teachings of such historic documents as the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds and, to a lesser degree, the Augsburg Confession, the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, and the Articles of Religion of the Free Methodist Church provide indispensable guidance. So also do the great pastors and teachers of the historic church, such as Augustine, Aquinas, the Protestant reformers, and Wesley.

Finally, we apply the rule often attributed to Augustine, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity." Thus, we heartily welcome students who come from various traditions. The vigorous, stimulating, and instructive discussion that takes place at Northeastern enables us to clarify, adjust, and think through our own understandings of theological issues as we measure them against the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

Timeline of Northeastern Seminary

Our History


Roberts Wesleyan College (RWC) successfully launches first three graduate programs, MEd, MSW, and MS in Management, and a masters in religion is proposed.


Alternatives for theological education are explored and support is gained.


Research and formal proposal is prepared and approved by board of trustees.


Authorization of NYS Board of Regents in July-approved to offer Master of Arts in Theological Studies, Master of Divinity.

Classes begin in September with eleven students.


RWC faculty become the first faculty of NES-moving from PT to FT status.

Additional FT faculty added, PT faculty expanded, and adjunct faculty added.


The first graduating class of a master’s degree program, 5 students.


Northeastern Seminary achieves Association of Theological Schools (ATS) accreditation in the shortest timeframe possible, per ATS regulations.


Following accreditation by ATS, NES undertakes and achieves MSCHE accreditation as a self-standing institution NES submits a proposal for the Doctor of Ministry degree program.

ATS grants permission to proceed with D.Min. degree and grants provisional accreditation.

Alumni association formed NES begins to engage in certificate (non-degree) theological education.


Ministry development program of conferences and seminars matures.


First certificate program graduates, 44 students.

NES launches Hispanic Certificate of Ministry program.


The first graduating class of the Doctor of Ministry program with 4 students.


Leadership transition as founding deans retire/depart.

Expands degree program offerings to include a Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership and a Master of Arts in Theology and Social Justice.


Launches course offering location for master's degree to serve students in greater Buffalo region — through video conferencing at Sheridan Meadows, Williamsville, N.Y.


Launches course offering location for master's degree to serve students in the greater Syracuse region — through video conferencing at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, N.Y.


Launches course offering location for master's degree to serve students in the greater New York Capital region — through video conferencing at Hudson Valley Community College, Troy, N.Y.


Expands partnerships for certificate theological education in New York Capital region.

Dr. Deana Porterfield is inaugurated as president of NES and RWC.

A regional advisory board is established in each community offering courses.


ATS approves fully distance learning model for all master’s degree programs.


Northeastern Seminary celebrates 150 year legacy of Roberts Wesleyan College.

Northeastern Seminary celebrates 20 year anniversary.


Launches fully online degrees for Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership, Master of Arts in Theology and Social Justice, and Master of Arts in Theological Studies.


Launched our Advanced Certificate Program in Chaplaincy, Biblical Interpretation, and Spiritual Direction Certificate. We also added the Spiritual Formation masters degree to our list of accredited programs.


Fall 2021 saw our largest incoming class to date.